Sports

Late flurry, and a little help from his friend, propels Kevin Penner to Tacoma Open victory

Sometimes it might be a tad nerve-wracking having an accomplished PGA Tour professional in your playing group, monitoring your every shot.

That was definitely not the case for Sammamish’s Kevin Penner, a 24-year-old professional out of Sahalee Country Club, in the final round Sunday of the second annual Tacoma Open at Meadow Park Golf Course.

Penner was in the penultimate group with notorious PGA Tour joker Andres Gonzales, who just finished off a career year.

It helped that the two are from the same college program, UNLV.

Down the stretch, with an encouraging Gonzales cheering him on, Penner posted a tournament-record 8-under-par 63 to edge overnight leader Christopher Evans, of Boise’s Plantation Golf Club, by one stroke.

Penner finished the three-round tournament at 14-under 199 — taking home the $10,000 winner’s check. Evans, who shot a respectable 68, was the runner-up at 200.

“I got beat by a good round,” said Evans, a Shelton native. “It is hard to say I played bad and lost. Just a big congratulations to him”

After a hot start, Penner was 4-under on his round standing on the 15th tee — an uphill 297-yard, par 4, which was playing downwind.

His 3-wood tee shot landed short of the green, kicked off a left-side sideboard and tracked right at the back hole location, stopping 7 feet short.

“I was fortunate it got back there,” Penner said. “I knew I had to make it.”

The putt hit the center of the cup and dropped in for an eagle-2, and suddenly the tournament had a new leader at 12 under.

Penner two-putted from 18 feet at the next par 5 for birdie — then rolled in a downhill 40-footer at No. 17 to get to 14 under — all with Gonzales pumping his fist, cheering in the background.

“(Gonzales) is an awesome guy. We’ve talked here and there since I graduated (from UNLV),” Penner said. “He was so supportive, and he is such a funny guy, so it helps you stay relaxed.

“You want to be serious, but at the same time you want to have fun — and that was what Andres allowed me to do today.”

Evans did not go away quietly. Trailing Penner by three shots, he rifled an 8-iron approach shot from 178 yards close at the par-5 16th hole, and made the 4-footer for eagle.

Needing one birdie, Evans left 16-footers for birdie on the final two holes short.

“I just didn’t make enough putts,” said Evans, who has four victories and five runner-up finishes on three mini-tours this season.

As for Penner, it had been nearly two years since he won his only professional tournament on the Adams mini-tour. He is set to go to the first stage of Web.com Tour qualifying school next month.

“I tell you what, it was nice getting that (winning) feeling again,” Penner said.

CHIP SHOTS

Penner’s 199 total came within one stroke of Andrew Yun’s winning total of 198 in the inaugural event last season. … Before Penner posted his 63, Tacoma’s Derek Barron had set the tournament’s record round of 64 on Sunday. His highlight was a greenside bunker holeout for eagle at the 10th hole. Barron finished in solo fourth place — after tying for third last year. … Evans and Tacoma’s Troy Kelly (67-69-66) who finished third, were the only golfers in the field to shoot every round in the 60s. … Lacey’s Jon McCaslin (206) was the low-grossing amateur in the field, tying for fifth. He closed with a 66. … Gonzales also tied for fifth at 206.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442

todd.milles@

thenewstribune.com

@ManyHatsMilles

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